Conservation Creation: April Showers

In some way or another, we are all connected by water. Water is not only necessary for our survival, it makes our lives better in countless ways! To name just a few examples, water is used for our plumbing systems, growing the plants that become our food, and keeping our boats afloat so that they can transport goods all over the world. We even use water for recreation: when we kayak, swim or visit water parks! It’s safe to say that water is one of our most important resources.

So, how does water connect all of us? Through the water cycle! When the Earth heats up, water evaporates and begins to collect in the clouds. Once the evaporated water begins to cool, droplets form and return to Earth in the form of precipitation (think rain or snow). You can learn more about precipitation and weather in the GSC’s Weather Gallery on your next visit!

To see what the water cycle looks like in action, follow the steps below for this month’s Conservation Creation activity, Storm in a Cup.

What you’ll need: A glass, a small container, blue food coloring, an eyedropper, shaving cream, and water

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Step 1: Fill the glass with water, leaving about 1-2 inches at the top for the “cloud”. In the small container, mix water and blue food coloring. The resulting blue water will be your “rain”.

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Step 2: Add shaving cream to the glass of water, filling to the rim. This will form the “cloud”.

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Step 3: Use the eyedropper to drop blue water into the center of your cloud. It may take a while for the rain to break through the shaving cream, but once it does, your cup will resemble a storm.

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For an additional lesson, see how long it takes for all of the water in the cup to turn blue. This can serve as a model for pollution!

Since all water is connected through the water cycle, it’s important for us to do all that we can to keep our water clean. You can learn more about how to get involved in keeping our water clean through the City of Greensboro Water Resources website!

Conservation Creation: Animal Valentines

At the Greensboro Science Center, one of the most important things keepers do for our animals is provide them with enrichment. Enrichment is defined as “improving the quality of”, and we apply that principle to the lives of our animals. Two of the primary things to keep in mind with providing enrichment are: provide the animals with choices; and stimulate natural behaviors, both physically and mentally.

Enrichment can be created in a variety of ways, depending upon the type of animal it’s intended for. For example, penguins have excellent eyesight, so providing them with brightly colored decorations in their exhibit can spark their curiosity and encourage them to investigate their habitat. As another example, it’s enriching for our fishing cats when keepers scatter their diets throughout their habitat so that they have to forage like they would do in the wild.

For pet owners, there are many ways to provide enrichment for the animals (dogs, cats, birds, etc.) in our homes without breaking the bank. Check out some of our DIY enrichment ideas below, or get creative and see how many different ideas you can come up with!

What you’ll need: Cardboard or paper materials from your recycling bin + your pet’s favorite treats (we’re using Cheerios)!

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Enrichment Item 1: Forage Box

Step 1: Place your treats in the middle of a piece of paper, then crumple the paper into a ball. Make as many of these as you would like.

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Step 2:  Place your treat-filled paper balls in a small box (like a shoe box), then give the box to your pet and watch them forage through to find their treats. For an added challenge, only put treats in a few of the paper balls so that your pet has to investigate more thoroughly.

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Enrichment Item 2: Treat Tubes

Step 1: Make a small paper ball and stuff it into one end of a toilet paper or paper towel tube.

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Step 2: Place some of your pet’s treats into the tube, on top of the paper ball you just made. Next, place another paper ball on top of the treats. You can give your pets the tube at this point, or continue on to step 3 for an added challenge!

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Step 3: Fold the outsides of the tube inward so that your pet has to manipulate the tube more thoroughly to reach the food. This will be especially useful for birds or high-energy dogs. Give the enrichment item to your pet, or hide a few of them around the house for your pet to find!

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Please remember: Every animal may interact with enrichment items differently.  For safety, items should be monitored to ensure your pet’s safety.

Pick Up an Ice Cube with a String

Pour salt over ice cube and string

Pour salt over ice cube and string

Materials
Full cup of water
Ice cube
Salt
~12 inches of string

Procedure
Put your ice cube in your cup of water.
Drape your piece of string across the ice cube; make sure there are a few inches of slack on each side.
Pour salt on top of the ice cube and string.
Wait for 60 seconds, then, taking the ends of the string in each hand, slowly lift the ice cube out of the water.

Results

Carefully lift ice cube

Carefully lift ice cube

You’ve picked up an ice cube using just a piece of string! How? According to explorable.com, the addition of the salt disrupts the state of equilibrium that existed between the ice cube and the water. The salt molecules begin to dissolve and mix with the water molecules; this changes the water’s rate of freezing. The rate of melting is now far quicker than the rate of freezing, causing the ice to melt rapidly. In order to restore the state of equilibrium, the water’s freezing point drops, causing the ice to freeze. The salt begins crystallizing and the ice ultimately refreezes around the string.

How Salt Melts Ice

Materials & Equipment:

Water, salt, 2 pie pans, a freezer

Procedure:

Setup

Setup

Fill each pan with water to about 2/3’s capacity. Place the pans on your freezer shelf, then wait for the water to freeze. After the water has turned to ice, set your pans side by side, and choose one to sprinkle with sea salt.

Results:

The salted ice will begin melting immediately. This is very similar to the way that our cities brine roads in anticipation of a snow or ice event. The science behind this method? Salt lowers the freezing (and also melting) point of water; therefore, the outside temperature must decrease significantly in order to maintain the salted ice.

Results - Salted Ice

Results – Salted Ice

Results - No Salt Added

Results – No Salt Added

Waiting for the Snow to Start? Make a Snow Measuring Stick!

Decorated Measuring Stick

Decorated Measuring Stick

Materials:
Paint stir stick
Ruler
Marker
Assorted Decorations (paint, foam shapes, pipe cleaners, etc)

Procedure:

Paint your stir stick, if desired (we used white paint for our snowman).

Create a base line a couple of inches above the bottom of the stir stick to mark zero inches. From there, use your ruler to mark off each inch going toward the top of the stir stick.

Decorate your measuring stick as desired.

Once your measuring stick finishes drying, find a nice open spot that will receive the most snow. Press your measuring stick in the ground up to your base line.

Snow Stick in the Ground

Snow Stick in the Ground

Results:
As the snow falls, periodically check on your measuring stick. We’d love to see how much it snows in your area, so please take pictures and share on the Greensboro Science Center’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GreensboroScienceCenter!

Erin with Snow Stick

Erin with Snow Stick

Candy Chromatography

Turn your Halloween candy into an awesome chemistry experiment!

Materials:
Candy with colorful coating
Flat plate or piece of foil
Coffee filter
Water
Pencil
Tape
Toothpicks
Clear glass or jar

Procedure:
1. Cut your coffee filter into a square.
2. In pencil, draw a line about one inch from the bottom of the filter. Using equally spaced increments, write the color of each candy on the bottom of your coffee filter.
3. Place one drop of water on your plate or piece of foil for each colored candy you want to test.
4. Put a piece of candy on top of the water drop and allow it to sit and dissolve for about a minute.

Procedure: Place Each Candy on a Drop of Water

Procedure: Place Each Candy on a Drop of Water

5. Remove the candy.

Procedure: Place a Drop of Color on Coffee Filter

Procedure: Place a Drop of Color on Coffee Filter

6. Using a clean toothpick for each color, place a small dot of the colored water on your coffee filter about an inch from the bottom above the appropriate color label.
7. Let the drop dry and repeat 2 or 3 more times.
8. Place a small amount of water in your glass or jar.
9. Tape your coffee filter to the pencil and place it over your glass or jar so the bottom of the filter just touches the surface.
10. When the water reaches about an inch from the top of the coffee filter, remove the filter and let it dry.
11. Observe your results!

What Happened and Why?
As the water soaks into the coffee filter, different components of each colored dye are separated. As you can probably see from your results, some colors are made up of a mixture of dyes. You’ll also notice that some colors are pulled farther up your coffee filter than others.

This is all explained by the fact that various dyes have their own chemical compositions, each of which separate at varying rates. Additionally, each chemical therein absorbs different wavelengths of light and by default expresses the ones it does not absorb, meaning that those not absorbed are the colors our eyes can detect.

Results

Results

Fall Leaf Chromatography

Materials - Fresh Green Leaves

Materials: Fresh Green Leaves

Materials:
Variety of freshly plucked leaves
Clear plastic cups, jars or glasses
Rubbing alcohol
Plastic wrap
Pencil
String
Coffee filters

Procedure: Place Torn Leaves in Individual Jars

Procedure: Place Torn Leaves in Jars

Procedure:
1. Collect some green leaves from multiple trees.
2. Tear up each leaf and place the pieces in a cup (one leaf per cup).
3. Add just enough rubbing alcohol to cover the leaf bits and cover with plastic wrap.
4. Allow the cup to sit for about 30 minutes.
5. Tie a piece of coffee filter to a pencil and place the pencil over the cup, allowing the coffee filter to dangle and just touch the top of the liquid.
6. Let the coffee filter sit for an hour or two.
7. Compare your results.

Procedure: Allow Experiment To Sit

Procedure: Allow Experiment To Sit


What Happened and Why?

As the liquid traveled up the coffee filter, you probably noticed a separation of colors. More than likely, you observed varying shades of green and maybe even some red, orange and yellow areas.

Results

Results

Leaves appear green because of a pigment called chlorophyll, which is necessary for photosynthesis. Chlorophyll can often cover up other pigments, though. When fall arrives and the leaves begin to change, chlorophyll breaks down, allowing you to see the red, yellow and orange pigments contained within the leaves. In the experiment above, you were able to see these hidden pigments on the coffee filter. Use these results to guess which trees will be most colorful in the fall!